Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Journalism News Roundup

There's a lot going on out there, so I decided today's post would be a series of items I've been saving from my Google Reader on the changes facing the journalism industry. I decided to focus only on the good news, and I'm pleased to note that there's plenty out there to report. Seattle's PublicCola blog has received a "significant" amount of funding from from Rajeev Singh, president and COO of Concur Technologies, and Greg Smith, a green developer, reports PaidContent.org. Creators of the politics and local affairs blog would not disclose the amount, but says it's enough to keep the venture afloat for some time.” As the debate rages on among journalists on Twitter (I am a believer), the PBS's Media Shift blog has come up with its own rules of engagement for those who choose to use the microblogging tool. Tips include: think before you Tweet; be an active Twit; and establish your Twitter identity. Don't look for the current ad slump for traditional media to ever go away, warns Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in EditorsWeblog.org. Saying media companies need to reset, media companies must completely rethink their business models to keep up with the changing landscape of publishing, he observed. Today Show news anchor Ann Curry recently spoke at the Twitter 140Conference in New York City. In an interview with SocialMedia.biz, she compared Twitter with an electronic newspaper to tout stories that didn't air, via her handle@AnnCurry. The Techdirt blog has a post about how Reuters, unlike the Associated Press, is embracing the future direction of journalism. I was struck by a quote from Reuters Editor in Chief, David Schlesinger: Fundamentally, the old media won't control news dissemination in the future. And organisations can't control access using old forms of accreditation any more. Those statements mean what they say and not necessarily more. I am not arguing that newspapers and magazines and news services will die. No, just that they must change.

I'll end this point on a humorous note. This past Friday was the last day for Paul Merkoski, executive editor of the
Press of Atlantic City. He offered a top 10 list of the things he'd miss most -- and least -- after leaving. What he'll miss most: hearing and sensing the hum of human energy that builds and washes across a newsroom when a significant news story begins to unfold and the newsroom's coverage scramble begins. What he'll miss least: Hearing local radio stations that don't employ ANY reporters shamelessly stealing the work of Press reporters and passing it off as their own "news reports."

Meanwhile, here's a few NABJ housekeeping notes. You can still vote online through Aug. 7. The webinar for the board secretary candidates is tomorrow from 1-2 p.m. Click here to sign up to listen to the candidates -- Sherlon Christie (who I've endorsed), Roland Marting and Jacqualine Williams -- offer their platforms and answer your questions.

And last -- but not least -- July 1 is the last day to register in advance for the annual conference Aug. 5-9 in Tampa. Click
here to register, and I hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NABJ Wins Grant for Multimedia Training

I was heartened to see an email in my box yesterday from NABJ announcing a $150,000 grant from the Ford Foundation "to increase educational and training opportunities for journalists of color." You can see the full press release here.

Back in March 2006, my employer held a weekend editorial retreat where it was announced that we were moving -- quickly -- into new/digital media. There was a big talk about the future of print journalism and how we all had to get on board in order for our publications to survive.

I enjoy my job, but more importantly, I have a family to provide for, so I began then and there my quest to transform into a multimedia journalist. We have had some training in this, but I have taken a lot of initiative to get those skills, and I've been rewarded nicely for my efforts.

I have NABJ workshops I've attended in the past three years to thank for major parts of my training. I've also taken advantage of of some great free social/new media conferences on the East Coast to beef up my skills in things including blogging and podcasting.

NABJ will use the Ford grant in three areas: increase multimedia workshops and educational programs in 2009 and 2010; create a professional scholarship program for recently laid-off members desiring professional training and networking opportunities at the NABJ Annual Convention & Career Fair; and help facilitate NABJ’s move to a new state-of-the-art facility at the Philip Merrill School of Journalism on the campus of the University of Maryland.

This will help some NABJ members in the next few years, but $150,000 is not enough to help all those who need it. I have always been a big fan of the "teaching a man to fish" mode of operation. And this post in PBS's Mediashift blog is about how students can teach themselves social media skills when journalism schools fail. But the tips in this post will work for anyone looking to beef up their skills in a hurry.

Writer Roland Legrand offered two models for those looking to gain these skills: informal networked learning, which asks participants to use social media "to acquire skills, knowledge and connections on an ad hoc basis;" and communities of practice, where professionals invite apprentices to learn new skills.

I have used both methods and have been blessed to gain knowledge from social media superstars including Josh Hallett of Voce Communications (and founder of BlogOrlando); Chris Heuer, a social media consultant and founder of the Social Media Club (with chapters across the country); David Parmet, a PR and social media guru and owner of Marketing Begins at Home; Leah Jones, owner of Natiiv Arts & Media, which advises musicians and artists on using social media to promote themselves; and last, but certainly not least, NABJ member Lisa Campbell, owner of Lisa Campbell Media (see my interview with her here).

NABJ has shown its commitment to offering its members social/new media training with workshops at the annual convention, the Media Institute and informative webinars. And the Ford Foundation grant will help. But with record numbers of journalists of color losing their jobs, the next NABJ board will have to step up and redouble their efforts to help members get training in their local areas. I stand committed to do that if I am elected as Region II director.

And don't forget -- today is the NABJ Candidates Webinar for Region II. Click here to register. The webinar is from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Hope you can make it!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UK's Guardian Newspaper Brings Crowdsourcing to the Forefront

My June 17 post was about the Knight Foundation grants to organizations trying to report news in different ways. The winner that caught my eye was DocumentCloud, a crowdsourcing effort to allow the media, watchdog groups and the public can find, share and analyze source documents.

Crowdsourcing asks the public to help with a task, and the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper has brought the effort to the forefront in journalism. How? The U.K. government is in the middle of a huge scandal where Members of Parliament were caught charging taxpayers for expenses that had nothing to do with their official duties.

Guardian asked readers to help them dig through 700,000 pages of MP expenses they think should be investigated. The mess has already forced six ministers in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet to resign, and with crowdsourcing, the story could go on for months.

The Nieman Journalism Lab blog has a post today on four lessons learned from the Guardian's crowdsourcing experiment. The newspaper has already had 20,000 readers sift through 170,000 pages of documents -- in the first 80 hours the request was made. The four takeaways from the post according to developer Simon Willison:

  • Your workers are unpaid, so make it fun.
  • Public attention is fickle, so launch immediately.
  • Speed is mandatory, so use a framework.
  • Participation will come in one big burst, so have servers ready.
Crowdsourcing is not going away anytime soon. The question is how journalists will use this as a tool moving forward.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Social Media and J-schools

I have always been a glass-half-full, look-ahead-to-the-future type of girl. So it was interesting for me to read this post from the Mashable blog, which is a staple on my Google Reader. The post was entitled "10 Ways Journalism Schools Are Teaching Social Media."

Writer Vadim Lavrusnik emphasizes this is NOT teaching students how to use Facebook and Twitter, since they are already experts on these tools. It "means that professors are delving into how these tools can be applied to enrich the craft of reporting and producing the news and ultimately telling the story in the best possible way," he wrote.

While all 10 tips were important, three jumped out at me as a way not only for students to have a competitive edge when they enter the world of work, but they are also ones that we "old school" journalists can use to give us the same edge.

Number one was Promoting Content. Ironically enough, the person Lavrusnik points to as his example is
Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. I recently had the chance to sit in on Sree's lecture on how journalists can use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for work when he was here in Washington, D.C. You can see my post -- and listen to the lecture -- here.

Social media tools are bringing readers to news sites and in many cases are increasing their Web-traffic, wrote Lavrusnik. I use these tools to promote my own work, and the numbers show that my traffic has increased. I'm also reaching aviation enthusiasts that may not have been aware of our publications.

Number two is News Gathering and Research. Lavrusnik cites Jeff Jarvis, a professor and director of interactive media at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, who says students need "to know how to use real-time searches to gather information and keep up on what is breaking." Those searches can be done using tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed, OneRiot, Tweetmeme, Scoopler and SearchMerge, said Lavrusnik. Twitter has become an invaluable tool for story ideas and sources.

And last -- but certainly not least -- is Building Community and Rich Content. "Sure a journalist can use social media tools to have a conversation with their audience, but what’s the point? The greater goal is to build a community through engagement," writes Lavrusnik. "Crowdsourcing, live blogging, tweeting — it’s about building a network around issues that matter to the community." And Jarvis notes that social media should help journalists, but not take over.

I have used Twitter (@avweekbenet) and Facebook to a lesser extent to promote my work and contribute to the conversation during challenging times for aviation. My readers feel a connection to me, which helps me do my job better. I see that my hard work is paying off, in this recent blog post about Aviation Week's coverage at the recent Paris Air Show versus our competitor, Flight Global. I was called
"the Aerospace & Defense Social Media Queen."

I know I may be sounding like a broken record, but it does bear repeating-- these days, journalists MUST use every tool available to them to keep relevant in a business (and it is a business) that has become ultra competitive. NABJ has been moving to remedy this situation with the Media Institute, but drastic times call for drastic measures, and training for members should be a priority for the new NABJ board, a board I want to be a member of, representing Region II.

Friday, June 19, 2009

American University-The Center for New Journalism

I graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., back in 1985. My degree was in broadcast journalism, but an internship at a local TV station was enough to permanently drive me over to the print side of the business.

At the time, I had my choice of universities with good journalism programs and got into all of them. I chose AU for several reasons: one, it was in D.C., which I felt provided plenty of opportunities for internships and even post-graduation jobs; and two, the program was small enough to have personal interaction with professors but also have the advantages of a larger school.

I go back to AU regularly to guest lecture on my 2 favorite topics: trade/B2B publications as a career option; and preparing yourself for the new world order of digital media.

Which it was with great pride that I read this article on PBS's Media Shift blog on why my alma mater has become "such a hotbed for new forms of journalism." Writer Mark Glaser cited the following factors:

  • Dean Larry Kirkman was an alchemist, a producer who brought people in from across disciplines;
  • The student body is interested in social justice and change; and
  • Washington, DC, is a great place for academics to be part of the political action.
Glaser also includes a series of video interviews with key players that have made American University the center for new journalism.

Although NABJ is headquartered at the University of Maryland-College Park, there is nothing stopping the organization from partnering with American University and other universities on the cutting edge of new media. As Region II director, I pledge to work with the board to make collaboration like this --which only benefits members-- happen more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Knight Foundation Funds Future of Journalism

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today released the winners of nine projects that will use crowdsourcing, mobile technology and digital investigative journalism to bring news and information to communities in new ways in the 2009 Knight News Challenge. I am heartened by this news, because projects like these are going to help transform the future of journalism.

The largest grant recipient was Document Cloud, for $719,500, according to the Knight press release. The team, made up of the
New York Times and ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom, will create an easily searchable, free, public online database of public records.

Other winning ideas included:
  • Helping citizens around the world use cell phones to report and distribute news, using the wisdom of the crowd to accelerate investigative reporting and enhance breaking news reports.
  • Developing a mobile media toolkit where media organizations and citizen journalists worldwide can easily download mobile applications to create and broadcast local news;
  • Launching a digital space where the public can report errors in media reports and track the ensuing dialogue and possible results.
The Knight Foundation has been a leader in getting journalists trained in the latest techniques of new and digital media. The next round of grants will be available for submission on Sept. 1. With so many NABJ members out of work, the board should consider developing a project and applying for a grant. The project could help in several ways: one, putting members to work; two, creating something that could benefit all of journalism; and three, raise NABJ's profile further as an organization that can help shape the future direction of journalism.

I have been passionate -- and vocal -- about making sure journalists are prepared for the new world order, and when I am elected Region II Director of the NABJ board, I will encourage members to look at these and other opportunities to keep us all employed.

Voting is now open for the 2009-2011 board of directors, and I hope you will read the campaign materials of all the candidates and support those who are serious about making sure members have the skills they need to survive in an industry that has become hypercompetitive. You can see who I've endorsed, here.

The Region II candidates webinar will be held Wednesday, June 24 from 1:00-2:00. Click here to register, and I look forward to your questions and comments.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Time Warner Offering New Hope for Hyperlocal Coverage?

I read with great interest a post on today's Nieman Journalism Lab on Time Warner's $10 million purchase of Patch, 6 New Jersey-based hyperlocal online news sites. Debate has been raging in the journalism community on whether hyperlocal sites are a potential savior for newspapers being battered by editorial cuts and plummeting advertising revenues.

Patch had already announced plans to expand to Connecticut, and the front page of the web site says it's hiring local editors. On the one hand, it seems that readers enjoy hyperlocal sites. But on the other, these sites, like newspapers' online sites, struggle to find models that will help pay the writers and support the site.

Nieman notes that a transaction like this shows that there can be some value for local news and information. But it also warns that sites like Patch and other sites like it still need to find ways to fund ventures.

It's news like this that the NABJ board needs to follow as members continue to lose jobs. By partnering with such efforts at the ground floor, NABJ members can benefit by being the first ones in the door when these efforts begin hiring. There's no disagreement that online news is the wave of the future. What is important is that we have a board that is sensitive to this shift and work with companies like Patch for future job opportunities. I hope I will get a chance to be a part of that transformation as Region II Director.

And please mark your calendar -- the "NABJ Candidates Forum - Region II" will be held Wednesday, June 24 from 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT. I hope you'll join the webinar for what I think will be a thoughtful and interesting debate.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Workshop: How Journalists Can Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter

I had the chance to attend a free workshop June 11 in Washington, D.C., on how journalists can use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for work. The speaker, Sree Sreenivasan, is a Columbia Journalism School professor, the Dean of Student Affairs and a social/new media expert. He also is co-founder of the Southeast Asian Journalists Association.

Sree gave us some great tips and tricks on using all three social media applications. All were interesting, but I found the LinkedIn tips the most helpful. I'm on LinkedIn, but frankly, I haven't done much with it.
Meanwhile, check out Sree's Twitter Tips for Newbies and Skeptics here .

The list of Sree's upcoming workshops is here. I strongly urge you to attend if he's coming to a city near you. I want to thank NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force chair (and VP Broadcast candidate) Andrew Humphrey for passing along the details of the D.C. workshop.

I'm hoping that we can get Sree to give his talk, either live or via a webinar, to NABJ members sometime before the end of the year. It's knowledge like this that will help our members remain competitive in an ever-shrinking field.

Finally, you can click here to listen to Sree's 1 hour, 35 minute session. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Taking a Look at the Pay-for Play Business Model

As the debate continues on how to monetize the online news industry as newspapers continue to bleed red ink, two recent blog posts caught my eye. The first was an announcement from ESPN The Magazine announcing plans to merge its web site with its $39.95 a year subscription to ESPN Insider service, reports PaidContent. org. The second was from the Nieman Journalism Lab, which outlines an experiment by Rhode Island's Newport Daily News to charge for all news using a 3-tiered structure.

On the one hand, ESPN is betting that its rabid sports fan base won't mind paying extra to gain access to even more news and insider information, ESPN Publishing general manager Gary Hoenig told BusinessWeek magazine media columnist Jon Fine. "Why is it, in this business, we are apologetic when asking [consumers] to pay for what we give them online?" asked Hoenig. "It's not like people in the milk business who think 'we should give it away for free—we can make money on the cartons.'"

The details are still being worked out, but the company emphasized that ESPN.com will still be free of charge. ESPN is still working out the details, but I'm sure many in the print business will follow the changes with interest.

And speaking of interesting, that's what I call the 3-tiered payment system being used by the Newport Daily News. The paper is charging $145 a year for print delivery, $245 for home delivery and online access and $345 for online-only access. But the twist is that Daily News is pursuing a "print-newspaper-first strategy,” said executive editor Sheila L. Mullowney. The paper is offering free access to its site for 30 days to get people used to the change.

Despite the high prices, the Daily News does have advantages that larger newspapers don't, including reduced state coverage by the Providence Journal and the fact that the newspaper only puts " a limited selection of its stories on its web site."

Love or hate these models, at least ESPN and the Newport Daily News are at least being aggressive about chasing a monetizing model. Only time will tell if these models will be able to sustain a viable news operation, but the NABJ board needs to follow experiments like these closely. If they work, there may be opportunities for members as we all continue to fight for survival during these trying times.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Voting for New NABJ Officers Begins Today

Today is Monday, June 8 which means it's the first day of online voting for the new board for the National Association of Black Journalists. With the current turmoil in the journalism business, I feel that this election could be the most important in the association's history.

I have blogged here extensively about, among other things, the job losses, monetizing the business model and journalists adapting their skills to fit into an ever-changing industry. As such, I believe it is very important that we have a board that can hit the ground running to handle these and other challenges our members will face in the next two years. No matter who you vote for, I would encourage you all to contact the candidates you're interested in and speak with them about their platform and vision for NABJ moving forward.

I am going to offer my endorsements today for the NABJ candidates I believe will best serve our membership moving forward. I'll start with the person I believe should lead us for the next 2 years. That person is Kathy Times, currently the board's VP/Broadcast. I have admired Times' advocacy and drive to help NABJ's Media Institute grow and flourish. I have become a strong proponent of training NABJ members to handle the move to new media, and Kathy has made that a priority on her platform. I also appreciate her commitment to providing more communications to NABJ members. I believe Kathy is the person most qualified to lead NABJ moving forward.

Next up is VP/Print, and I am heartily endorsing current NABJ secretary Deidre Childress. I have always been impressed with Childress's responses on the NABJ Listserv to questions from the membership, no matter how difficult the question. And having looked at the board minutes for the past 2 years, Childress is detailed and task oriented, skills that will be critical as print journalism continues its painful -- and interesting -- transformation. I have blogged about NABJ forming partnerships with the businesses that are transforming the print journalism model and Childress is committed to doing that moving forward.

I am throwing my support behind Andrew Humphrey for VP/Broadcast. As an active member of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, I have had the pleasure to see Humphrey's work up close and personal. Among the planks in his platform is his commitment to push for members in the digital frontier and is also committed to expanding NABJ partnerships with new media businesses.

Sherlon Christie is my choice to take over as NABJ secretary. Christie has been actively running for the office, reaching out to the NABJ membership with his blog, Facebook page, online live chats and appearances at association events. In his platform, he has two planks that especially appeal to me and should to the rest of the NABJ membership. First, he is emphasizing the importance of new media, with the goal to encourage all members to get up to speed with those skills, since that is the future of journalism. Second, he has committed to continue with Childress's efforts to be more open and offer regular information updates to the NABJ membership.

Although I can't vote for Region IV director, I am supporting the candidacy of Keith Reed. Reed has been very active in creating and maintaining his multimedia profile and serving as a commenter with national media outlets on money and finance. In his platform, he pledges to work with the NABJ board to help members find renewed purpose in a quickly changing media landscape.

And last, but not least, I hope those of you in Region II will consider my candidacy for director. I understand that I am running against an incumbent, but with the rapid changes in the industry in the past two years alone, I feel some change could only do the board good.

As Region II Director, my priorities will be to:

  • Offer a yearly Region II conference and quarterly webinars on hot topics;

  • Ensure more is done to offer training/advice/learning for members trying to adapt to new business models; and

  • Increase the contact of the regional director to better serve as a bridge between local chapters and the board.

During these times of rapid change, it's important for NABJ members to look at all the candidates and see which ones you feel will best guide the association in what will most likely be another two years of turmoil. Again, I feel the candidates I'm endorsing are the ones who will do that best moving forward.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Journalism Online LLC CEO Chats With Top Newspapers on Payment/Micropayment Model

In what has become the world's worst secret, around dozen dozen top executives (and an antitrust lawyer) met in Chicago last Thursday to talk about “to discuss how best to support and preserve the traditions of newsgathering that will serve the American public,”according to the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. The executives were walking a very fine line, since they can't talk about things like creating pay walls without breaking antitrust laws.

And one of the speakers was Steven Brill, founder of Journalism Online, LLC, which will offer tools to publishers that will allow them to charge for online content. You can see my April 22 post on the venture here. Journalism Online is scheduled to launch this fall, Brill told PaidContent.org.

What did Brill tell the executives? He called his venture a "hybrid model" that "allows publishers can keep 88% of page views and 91% of online ad revenues while adding significant online circulation revenues (80 cents to $1.00 x 10% of monthly unique) AND boosting PRINT circ revenue (with bundled offers) while lowering PRINT sub acquisition and retention costs,” wrote Paid Content.

And speaking of paying for content, writer Tim Windsor of the Nieman Journalism Lab blog asks a very simple question: Is news content gasoline, or is it bottled water? With that question, he asks if free online news is something that people must buy -- like gasoline -- because they have to? Or is it like bottled water, a commodity that people can get for free but pay for it because they like the packaging and branding?

There are thousands of people -- like me -- who pay for bottled water and things like music in iTunes. Yet, writes Windsor, "almost universally, when asked, they say they won't pay for digital news content at any price." Which is the very question the newspaper executives were pondering at that recent meeting.

The answer, of course, is that someone must develop a model that gets the news out there and allows companies to pay their journalists and also make some money. Or do we have to consider moving to non-profit models like VoiceOfSanDiego.org? Either way, the incoming NABJ board will have to make itself a part of this debate to ensure that its members have career options under both models.